The town of Brookline just extended the Brookline Arts Center's lease for thirty years. Considering that municipalities are only allowed to grant up to a 5 year lease without a resolution from the state, this was quite an undertaking. Although it took considerable work, the lease extension has long term benefits for the BAC and community in general.
A Long Road
According to Susan Navarre, Executive Director of the Brookline Arts Center, the process to extend the BAC's lease began back in 2007. To obtain permission from the State Legislature for a longer lease, the issue was first brought before the Brookline Board of Selectmen and the Advisory Committee. They voted to bring the issue before a Town Meeting at which a unanimous vote supported bringing a Home Rule Petition before the State Legislature to extend a long-term lease.
Unfortunately, the first filing was tied up in a backlog of other Home Rule Petitions at the State Legislature. The delay was caused by an unrelated petition brought by another community that required resolution before any others could be considered.
A second filing was required, which, fortunately, went through fairly quickly. Selectwoman Nancy Daly presented the Petition to the State Legislature for consideration.
With an approval in hand, the Selectmen and Town Council's office negotiated the lease terms. Lease details include a list of proposed improvements and maintenance to be performed on the building during the next 30 years. On Tuesday, November 30th, the Board of Selectmen unanimously voted to approve the extension.
Selectmen Integral in Process
When asked about navigating the lengthy process, Navarre noted the Selectmen "have been enthusiastic about the promise of art classes for all over the long term". This support was critical in working through the legalities of the lease extension at local and state levels. It also affirmed the Brookline Arts Center is meeting its mission to fill a need in the community through scholarships and a range of classes and events that engage and inspire participation in the arts. Susan continued that the BAC "wants to be seen as open and welcoming to the community". The enthusiasm and unanimous support of the Selectmen confirmed they are filling this role.
What the Extended Lease Means
Beyond the obvious benefit of having the Arts Center in place, the extended lease helps the Center continue to provide services to the community. As a non-profit organization, funds obtained through grants are vital. In order to obtain grant money, the Arts Center must be able to demonstrate the promise of it's program's longevity. Having a 30-year lease in hand provides this proof and greatly simplifies the grant process.
A Little History
The building currently housing the BAC was not always its home. From 1889 until the 1960's, the building was actually used by the Fire Department. It was designed by Victorian architects Peabody & Stearns, both residents of Brookline who also designed such Boston landmarks as Park Square Station and the Custom House Tower during the late 1800's - early 1900's.
The time of its creation coincided with the creation of the cottage farm neighborhoods. The idea was to provide a fire station closer to the new cottages by locating it on Monmouth St.
When the Fire Station closed, the building remained vacant for some time, and the town considered tearing it down. At this point, the Brookline Arts Center was located in temporary spaces in artist's studios. An architect on the BAC Board recommended considering the vacant space as a potential home for the Arts Center. After making major renovations on the building, the Brookline Arts Center took up occupancy in 1968.
Interestingly, Navarre notes that the 40th anniversary of the first class held at the BAC coincided to the day with President Obama's election.
By Catie Hayes, Editor